A trip to Muskegon last summer reminded me that cities constantly change.
It had been more than 20 years since I had visited Muskegon; I found the city had kept some downtown landmarks and transformed everything else.
Over the last few months, the coronavirus pandemic has changed life for everyone.
Now as Michigan reopens, we are able to resume our journeys along Lake Michigan’s coast. We’re emerging from our homes, although there are changes in the way we interact with each other and destinations and attractions.
“As the state of Michigan slowly begins to reopen after the COVID-19 crisis, people are beginning to revisit Muskegon,” said Bob Lukens, director of Visit Muskegon, the countywide convention and visitors bureau. “Muskegon County is fortunate to have 27 miles of lakeshore and some of the largest beaches on Lake Michigan, plus three state parks, so visitors can feel comfortable knowing there is plenty of room to enjoy the outdoors in Muskegon County.”
“Muskegon also has almost 80 miles of paved recreational trails for cyclists, hikers and runners, and we have two exceptional mountain biking trails in the county, at the Owasippe Scout Reservation and the Mosquito Creek Trails.”
For me, Muskegon Farmers Market and Western Market qualified as new — and very pleasant surprises in Muskegon.
With COVID-19, the farmers market has made some changes. Music and entertainment are out for this year. The picnic tables are gone. Face masks are highly encouraged for all visitors, and social distancing will be required. Access is limited to certain points, and there are one-way aisles. The outdoor farmers market will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from May 2 through Nov. 30, 2020.
I also visited the Hackley & Hume Historic Site, an old favorite of mine in downtown Muskegon.
The city’s 19th-century lumber barons, Charles Hackley and Thomas Hume, were business partners and close friends. They had their Queen Anne-style homes built next to each other on West Webster Avenue.
And what fine homes they are. The Hackley home is known for its intricate woodwork. Aaron Mace, assistant program manager, told me it took 13 woodcarvers two years to hand-carve the interior.
The historic site is part of the Lakeshore Museum Center. Check out lakeshoremuseum.org for details on when the site will reopen.
New to me was Muskegon Heritage Museum — and it’s a dandy. Established in 1983, the museum tells the stories of Muskegon’s businesses and industries. Curator Anne Dake noted a newly installed elevator provides easy access to the 12,000 square feet of exhibit space spread over three floors. I saw how a working steam engine (now run by compressed air) powers 11 machine tools with a line shaft. Clear panels allowed me to peer into the complex mechanism of a 1961 Brunswick bowling pinsetter, made in Muskegon. By the way, the pinsetter works perfectly. Did you know the original Raggedy Ann dolls were made in Muskegon? West Michigan Pike enthusiasts will want to see the museum’s exhibit on the highway.
“Muskegon County’s West Michigan Pike history runs deep,” Lukens noted. “The West Michigan Pike Association had its headquarters here back in the 1920’s, and there are still quite a few historic buildings and artifacts remaining from The Pike in its heyday. Visitors should definitely stop at the Muskegon Heritage Museum, which brings to life the many products and businesses that were produced or located in Muskegon.”
The USS Silversides Submarine Museum is another old favorite of mine in Muskegon. While the attraction is closed currently due to COVID-19, you can view the Lost Boat 2020 Ceremony on its website.
The sub and museum are close to the splendor of Pere Marquette Beach on Lake Michigan. Once the attraction opens up, you can tour the World War II sub, the fine museum and a Prohibition-era Coast Guard cutter. Honoring veterans is the museum’s mission, said Peggy Maniates, executive director.
A second nautical favorite in Muskegon is the USS LST 393 Veterans Museum. LST is short for “Landing Ship, Tank,” in military parlance. This vessel participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II. The decks are packed with interesting displays. Ike Villalpando, museum manager, is committed to sharing its history.
USS LST 393 Veterans Museum is scheduled to open for tours on June 27. Stringent health measures will be taken. All staff and guests will wear masks.
The Aquastar is a third nautical favorite, and it mixes old and new. The renamed and redecorated vessel honors Muskegon’s incredibly rich maritime history. A cruise on Muskegon Lake is the perfect way to relax after visiting —or revisiting — Muskegon.
Article written by David Hoekman, managing editor